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Sudoku saves photographers from copyright theft

Posted September 6, 2013
Sudoku saves photographers from copyright theft

Sudoku saves photographers from copyright theft
A clipart image of a baboon can be embedded using a Sudoku-like grid to add a robust watermark to another image, in this case a photo of capsicum. Credit: Shamsul Khalid et al./Inderscience Publishers

A new watermarking technology based on a system akin to the permutation rules used to solve the numeral puzzles known as Sudoku has been developed by computer scientists in Malaysia. Writing in the International Journal of Grid and Utility Computing the team reports how their system could resist attempts to “crop” the watermark in more than nine times out of ten cases.

Images, photos and graphics on the web are easy pickings for plagiarists and those who might ignore copyright rules. Photographers and others often add a watermark to their images to reduce the risk of their images being lifted for use on others’ sites without permission. However, those intent on leeching an image might simply crop the watermark in some cases.

With the proliferation of digital multimedia content on the internet, content owners and service providers require robust technology to protect their work. Digital watermarking is commonly used to embed specific information into the media to be protected, such as a company’s logo or product serial number. Such information can later be extracted and used to detect forgery and unauthorized usage and to prove authenticity and provenance. Importantly, a digital watermark must not distort or disrupt display of the image when used in its rightful place and so needs to be imperceptible in use.

Now, Shamsul Khalid of the Universiti Tun Hussein Onn Malaysia, in Johor, and colleagues, explain how a valid 9×9 Sudoku solution – comprising a pixelated second image – is used to create the watermark so that it is evenly distributed within an image and so that it resists automated cropping and noise additions by bots and other tools that scrape images from websites and add them to an illicit database for unlicensed resale or distribution to other websites that require a range of unique images but do not wish to pay for the privilege.

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